You wouldn’t venture out into a blizzard without taking precautions, and you shouldn’t venture out into extremely hot and humid weather without doing so either.
Temperature extremes can be deadly, particularly for babies, children, the elderly, obese people or anyone with a health condition. But even the healthiest among us can fall prey to things like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In fact, heat-related illnesses are the most frequent cause of injury treated in emergency rooms during summer months, along with lightning injuries, drowning and sunburn.
How to hydrate
Normally, drinking plain water to thirst is sufficient. But if you’re exerting yourself in hot, humid weather, that might not be enough. Whether you’re working outside or playing sports, any prolonged exertion that causes heavy sweating can get you into trouble. Keep up the plain water, but incorporate a sports drink, too, to replace electrolytes you lose by heavy perspiration. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol while dehydrated! And keep in mind that soda and other sweet drinks are not as ideal as plain water. Save the caffeinated drinks for a time when you aren’t sweating heavily.
How cool are you?
If you can take breaks by entering an air conditioned area, do so. If you’re in a situation where that isn’t possible, you can do things like periodically wet your hair, or wet a bandana and place that on your head. Plunging your head under running water will make your whole body feel cooler. Take breaks from exertion and go to a shady area. And dress for the weather! Loose, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can help protect you.
What are the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
Watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion, which can include things like weakness, very heavy perspiration, a weaker pulse, nausea, loss of consciousness and cold, pale, clammy skin. Even more serious is heat stroke, in which the body temperature is elevated above 103 degrees, the heart rate is rapid and the skin is hot and red. Loss of consciousness may occur. If suspected heat exhaustion doesn’t improve after measures like drinking a sports drink and soaking in a cool bath, or if heat stroke is suspected, seek emergency medical attention. A heat stroke can cause organ damage and even death.
The Emergency Room at Culbertson Memorial Hospital is equipped to treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t hesitate if you suspect heat stroke!